‘The idea of world literature, taken as a whole rather than divided into many national or linguistically based literatures, is a paradoxical one. How can we speak of a “literature” that encompasses far too many languages to master in a single lifetime? Does the term refer to the totality of all the literature in the world, or does it imply a project of canonisation—and if so, who gets to decide which works are included? For the purposes of the study of literature, what constitutes the “world”? The last question might seem the easiest to answer: the world is where we live, the ground beneath our feet. But it's a more slippery concept than that.’
Garry Wills is a great American political essayist and historian whose imagination has always been set on fire by the power of the word in the time of Elizabeth I. In his new book, he writes about it at length. And it is an extraordinary thing to try to imagine the Elizabethan moment and do justice to the majesty of its artistic achievements ...